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Display Capitals And Inhabited Initial, In St. Aldhelm's 'In Praise Of Virginity'

Display Capitals And Inhabited Initial, In St. Aldhelm's 'In Praise Of Virginity'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1090

Shelfmark: Royal MS 6 B.vii

Item number: f.4r

Length: 30.1

Width: 20.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

St. Aldhelm (c.639-709), abbot of Malmesbury and bishop of Sherborne, has been described as 'the first Englishman who cultivated classical learning with any success'. He led a particularly austere life: it is recorded that when he was abbot he used to recite the entire Psalter standing up to his neck in ice-cold water. His main surviving work is 'In Praise Of Virginity', which he dedicated to the abbess and nuns of Barking. This manuscript of the text was at Exeter Cathedral by the early 12th-century, when a list of the cathedral's relics was added at the end. The main text is introduced by an initial 'I' in which a man and a dragon-like hybrid clamber. Such initials are not uncommon, but it is not clear whether they were meant to be 'merely decorative' or 'meaningful': some would say that the man is climbing toward heaven, and away from a representation of evil.

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